(This is my account of one of my favorite races every in my 20 years of racing...which sadly the year I did it would be the last. 2004 I believe)
So it wasn’t long ago that I got roped into what my friend calls “The Toughest Mountain Bike Race under 20 miles in Colorado". Sure whatever. In the day of 29″ wheels and semi slick tires mountain bike racing is dead and trying to revive NORBA is like trying to pump up a flat tire with one of those mini-pumps. Besides, I’m sick of racing against 140lb kids who don’t drink beer and don’t know the flavor of a good Malboro red. So I tell him, my 220lb ale soaked body isn’t going to be doing some stinkin’ mtb race.
I’ll stick to the Velodrome.
Well needless to say he convices me. Singletrack that is really single track….none of this 2 foot wide stuff people call singletrack. Climbs that will get my granny gear dirty and downhills that will work me as much as the ups. I’m mildly interested and then he throws in the kicker “Lunchbox if you do the race I’ll even create a clydesdale class for ya". Sounds good to me.
The thought of racing again appeal to me so I start riding again. A Clydesdale class….I can dig this because I can be competitive again. I’ll be racing against other guys who drink beer and eat red meat. Perfect. Plus been feeling strong thanks to the fact I was dragged out to the track this last season so I got my spin on again.
Race day I was sick. Hell race week I was sick. What am I doing? do I really need to race again? Do I really want to feel my legs burn, my heart explode, and my legs cramp? Well as any sick in the head bicycle racer will tell ya, hell yeah. So I crawl out of bed and do the dance. I make the trip up and it was beautiful. Aspens are turning colors, a site that takes my breath away and reminds me of my drives along the Mississippi this time of year in Minnesota, and not of the turning in my stomach prompted by my illness of the last week.
So i show up and get my number plate for the bars and chit chat with the familiar faces. Brain Gravestock of Brian’s Bikes is there and Eric Baar of Ground Up fame shows up on his self made single speed….complete with powder coated baby blue rims and cranks. It looks pimp and he has these funky disco/staying alive glasses to complete it. Race start is at 11am and I circle the town of Victor 10-15 times to warm up.
Gun goes off at 11am and the rolling start through town and onto the gravel makes me wonder what I’m doing. Heartrate is shooting up and the first hill kicks my ass. What the hell am I doing? I’m sick and my heart is ready to explode and my lungs are giving me the finger. But few have really passed me other than the 130lb organic food eating, soy milk drinking crowd. So feeling oddly good about this excersie in stupidty.
First climb levels off into some semi flat twisty singletrack. Okay this is what I can dig, so I cha-ching it up into the big ring and make some time. Feeling pretty smooth until I hit the next climb. During the flats my lungs joined the Union and are now on strike forcing me to slap it back into the granny and hope my legs are still on board.
What goes up must come down and I find myself flowing down a pretty fast insane downhill. The kind that allows you to build up 30+ speed then when everything is getting blury it brings on the rocks, drops, and gulleys. I nearly eat it thanks to my 1/2 ass Michellin tires (damn french crap) but instinct takes overly and reaction is back. Comfortable, I gun it and think of my old Yeti T that read:
“Faster and Faster until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death".
Of course, that logic was best applied when ma and pa paid my medical bills. Briefly I wonder how hard it would be to type or write ad tickets up with a broken arm. Ah bollocks this is fun and the terrain is great. Now if only this could be the last road into the finish line those little 130lb bastards would be mine.
But it isn’t.
Sure enough another f**k all of a climb is thrown in. And dispite another good rolling section another uphill is to come. I thought Cskany was joking when he said the course was 90% up hill. At this rate I’m going to be replacing a chain and the 24tooth on my XTR crank. And for the first time since I was 16, the hills are making my lower back hurt.
All the Clydesdale racers are within site and at one point I am easily in the lead. But over this 15 mile up hill battle I’m pissed the Ellsworth has only one bottle cage. Knew I should have gone to Tony’s Saturday night with friends and just drank pitcher after pitcher of water until I pissed myself. Lack of hydraution sets in and so does my position to 2nd. Eventually I’m at 3rd and it’s obvious I’m stuck no matter how much I try. So I take to talking to the riders around me and strike up a good conversation with an engineer named Chad from Rock Shox who knows people I know there and elsewhere. Ah the bike industry. What a small world it is. He cracks open a Red Bull and shares it with me and I let him have 1/2 of my powergel.
The last uphill is a bastard and I close in on the top as death closes in on me. Man this is stupid. Lungs are still on strike and I know my legs only can do so much and they are best kept for the end. No honor in walking across the finish line. So once i hit the top I drop the hammer and give it my all. And all I had to give was given to the mounatin coming down. The downhill is so rough my full suspension is almost pointless and the rocks I swear were strategically placed in the corners and to mess up the good lines elsewhere. I find myself bunny hoping out of instinct, the fact i jumped something occuring to me 20 yards after I do it. The discs are squeeling and my arms are pumping. The last stretch of offroad is fast downhill with wheel eating dips popping out of the meadow from nowhere.
The last stretch is downhill than uphill into town. My big ring is feelnig unloved so I thought I’d give it some glory for the last 1/2 mile to the finish line. With all my strength I gun it all the way into town, loosing little speed on the uphill finish making those around wonder if I won the whole damn thing.
2hours and 25 minutes it took my down-with-the-sickness ass to finish the most hellish 14 mile course I’ve ever ridden in my 15 years of riding. Only 5 minutes back from the winner of the Cldyesdale class. Legs are cramping a bit so I lay down next to the water cooler and suck down some water. After that I make my way to the keg and have a few beers. Okay…feeling better now. A sandwich and some more water is all i need to revive myself. I make my way to my car, change, grab some Gatorade and head back up to lay down on the warm ground….well, and grab another beer.
Yeah I could have ridden faster had I been an adult, gone to the doctor, got drugs, and gotten better. But Pros are the ones that pop pills and inject themselves with stuff. I ain’t a pro. Just an average guy who likes to race and drink beer.